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1 way to improve a police officer’s promotion potential

Here’s a simple process that will enable you to be able to prove that you can successfully supervise anyone or anything

It’s one thing to merely prepare for a written exam, but entirely a different technique to prepare for any type of interview or situational assessment.

Are you thinking of taking the next promotional exam? You’re reading all the policies and procedures, recommended readings and the like, but suddenly you become aware that something is missing – a way for you to be able to prove that you can successfully supervise anyone or anything!

It’s one thing to merely prepare for a written exam, but entirely a different technique to prepare for any type of interview or situational assessment. The core of your preparation should focus on your personal readiness level for that next rank.

What that really means is that you’re literally “ready” to step into the role of that position. The only true way to demonstrate that is by relating your experiences that are similar to the same skills required of the new position. If you haven’t had those experiences yet, there are ways to develop them right where you are.

Start thinking of your own developmental plan for learning. Start practicing specific skill sets outlined in the job description of the position you’re seeking to promote into.

Getting Started in your Preparation Process

Here’s an easy way to start preparing for your next promotional exam. Take the elements of the job announcement and use a similar self-check system to estimate your own readiness level in each of the various dimensions. Be honest with yourself and think in terms of your ability to verify, validate and prove your readiness levels.

We hear all too often a comment like, “I’m ready to promote. After all, I’ve been an officer for over 10 years, and have worked in a variety of jobs, including FTO, SWAT, K-9, motors, detective, so now I’m ‘ready’ to be a sergeant.”

Really? Nowhere in that list were the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) for sergeant mentioned.

The good news is that buried in each of those experiences are easily transferable skills to those of a sergeant. The basic core of supervision and management include such skills as planning, organizing, scheduling, reporting/communications, perhaps some budgeting and analysis skills, presentations, counseling (as an FTO or supervising non-sworn or sworn personnel), creating an action plan, organizing a tactical plan, initiating a project and measuring successes.

Sample KSAs for Sergeant (with Self-Assessment)

Having the ability to point to examples of how you’ve done those things demonstrate your readiness for that next level. If they are not in your current experiences, then you’ll need to start working on developing those skills.

Here’s one way to help you get started. As you review each KSA, rank yourself on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would be the lowest level (where you need some work to develop this KSA) whereas a “5” would be the highest level (where you clearly have experience or have mastered this skill).

The following is from an actual job description for sergeant:

  • Supervises and evaluates the work of subordinate officers and other civilian personnel;
  • Reviews daily activity logs and police reports for accuracy and thoroughness;
  • Establishes methods for performing assigned duties;
  • Recommends and assists in the implementation of department and division goals and objectives;
  • Recommends updates to existing general orders and prepares new orders for department approval;
  • Evaluates crime trends and recommends new proactive and reactive responses;
  • Monitors the establishment and progress of all community-oriented policing policies;
  • Researches and analyzes trends and incidents and determines the need for police action or additional police officers in unusual situations;
  • Assists in budget preparation, and monitors overtime, compensation time, and other department expenditures.

Now that you have a picture of where you are on a numeric scale (hopefully, with lots of 4s and 5s), what examples, experiences, or stories could you use that would demonstrate these KSAs? How could you integrate your personal examples that demonstrate your readiness level while answering a scenario question?

Keep in mind that what they write about your performance is based on the behaviors (what you say, or write) that are related to the dimensions from the actual job description or job analysis.

This article, originally published 09/11/2014, has been updated.

Rick Michelson’s 30 years of experience in law enforcement started with the San Diego Police Department where he served as a patrol, SWAT and FTO sergeant. He also served as interim chief, lieutenant and sergeant with two university and college police departments. He has taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

As director of KSA Ltd., (Knowledge, Skills & Abilities), he provides leadership development training workshops, using assessment centers methods, for officers who are preparing for supervisory and management positions. He is also the author of “Assessment Centers for Public Safety.” He has a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University and a master’s degree in public administration from National University. He was also a Ph.D. candidate for the Union Institute and University.